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B-School: How different is ISB?

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Last updated on: July 03, 2006 16:23 IST

Every year, tens of thousands of students write the Common Admission Test, a prerequisite for admission to the Indian Institutes of Management and other business schools. This is their first step towards the much-coveted Master of Business Administration degree.

The IIMs have always been top priority because of the quality of education they symbolise and also because of their sheer brand value.

Of late, however, there has been another entrant on the B-schools list.

On the face of it, one may consider the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, as just another competitor to the IIMs. Delve further and you will realise the two institutions are as different as chalk and cheese.

How ISB is different

ISB conducts a one-year MBA programme; most other business schools in India conduct a two-year programme.

The advantage, here, is mainly that one can go back to work that much faster. An additional year of study is potentially an additional year of income lost.

However, this does not lessen the ISB degree's value in any way. There are no breaks in the one-year programme, which is a lot more rigorous than its two-year counterpart.

Secondly, unlike most B-schools which have a large influx of fresh graduates, the ISB insists its applicants have prior work experience.

Deepak Chandra, assistant dean, Centre for Executive Education, ISB, explains, "We insist on work experience because it enhances the course for the students. They are able to relate to the managerial concepts they learn because they have already been a part of an organisation. It's not just theory that is constantly bombarded at them."

There is another reason why studying at ISB means you can enter the job market that much faster; business networking begins as you study.

Says Rahul Choudaha, manager -- admissions, ISB, "Often, fresh graduates get into an MBA programme without knowing what they want out of it. A few years of experience often gives you clarity and you will know what excites you and what puts you off."


The ISB is associated with three top global business schools, namely the Kellogg School of Management, The Wharton School and London Business School.

There is a judicious mix of international and resident faculty. Besides, the faculty includes research members, ie teachers who are working on and researching their areas of specialisation.

Curriculum, specialisations

The one-year programme is divided into eight terms, lasting six weeks each. The basic or core subjects are taught in the first four terms.

In the final four terms, the students choose their specialisations and are taught the elective, or specialised, subjects.

The subjects that a student can specialise include:

  • Analytic Finances
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Operations & IT Management
  • Strategic Marketing
  • Leadership & Change Management

Additional programmes

Apart from the course subjects, students undertake a few additional programmes. They are advised to experiment as much as possible in the first six months, so that they can identify the area of their interest and choose their specialisation accordingly.

  • Leadership Management Programme: It involves a series of lectures, discussions and workshops to develop one's leadership skills.
  • Exponential Learning Programme: It involves working on a project in groups of four to six.
  • Professors of Management Practice: Industry leaders and professionals are invited to share their practical experiences and learning. 
  • Corporate Interaction: A number of entrepreneurs and corporate heads constantly visit the faculty to interact with the students and conduct workshops.


Let's talk statistics.

~ More than 95 per cent of the students receive placements.

~ Last year, students received 442 offers, of which 436 were lateral offers. In a lateral placement, you begin your career at a level that is higher than an entry level post at an organisation.

~ While 399 out of the 442 offers were from domestic companies, the remaining were international. Major companies that offer placements at ISB include CNN-IBN, Citibank, Covansys, Cognizant, GENPACT, EDS, Satyam, Wipro, Infosys, McKinsey, Microsoft and Ernst & Young.

~ While the highest international salary was $ 2,33,800, the average domestic salary offered to the students was Rs 11,77,000.

Student exchange programme

The college has a student exchange programme with business schools from the US, UK, Israel and China.

In the final two terms, the students have to choose between an exchange programme and the placement programme, which takes place at the same time.

On an average, 40-50 students are sent on the student exchange programme. Though students who choose this option do not have to pay extra tuition fee, they do have to bear their travel and living costs.

Student life

The campus is spacious, stretching across 260 acres, and includes basketball courts, squash courts, gymnasiums and other sports facilities.

There are a number of student clubs -- some deal with professional interests like finance and marketing, the rest are social clubs like movies, photography and music.

Interestingly, 20 per cent of students at ISB are married and live with their families on campus.

Entrance exam

The ISB associates itself with the GMAT; the GMAT score is one of the five areas considered in the admission procedure. While there is no cutoff, most students have a score of at least 600.

If an applicant has given the CAT and not the GMAT, he may be given conditional admission and will have to then appear for the GMAT. To confirm his admission, he will have to secure a score of at least 690. International students have to give the TOEFL.

Six essays will evaluate students on their ethical values, leadership skills and post-ISB career goals. These essays will basically test how focused the students are. Students are often asked to discuss what leadership means to them in one of the essays.

Finally, there is the interview where students interact one-on-one with a special admissions board.

Work experience

Work experience is another important qualifying factor. A majority of the students at the ISB have at least four to five years of work experience.

There are a few students who have less than two years of experience as well.

This apart, students need to present at least two referrals (a maximum of three, if they so wish). The referrals should ideally be from someone with whom they have worked, but can also be from their previous academic institution.

Choudaha, however, is quick to point out that experience is not the only criterion. "We look for the entire package," he says. "In fact, last year, we chose a girl from Mumbai who had no work experience but showed remarkable leadership through her essays and academic and non-academic portfolio. Work experience is important but not the be-all and end-all. There are no cut-offs in any field. We prefer looking at every individual and treating him or her as unique."


The tuition fees are Rs 13,90,000.

Students have to live on campus; it costs Rs 1,26,000 for a shared (two to four people) flat and Rs 2,16,000 for a studio flat. Students are also required to possess their own laptop.

The fees are much higher than a two-year MBA in India, which would cost approximately Rs 4,00,000 to Rs 7,00,000. However, when compared to a similarly structured MBA abroad, an MBA from ISB is a lot cheaper.

Scholarships are need-based and merit-based.

Other details regarding admission and the date of application are available on

The last word

"Students must realise," says Choudaha, "that an MBA is an investment of a lifetime. They must know what they are getting into and must not jump into an MBA just because of the fat pay packets on offer. Certain students do an MBA at ISB because they want to make a function shift, ie they want to move from the technical field to the managerial field in their own company. Others wish to make a complete sector shift. For example, a manager in an IT company may want to be an account manager in an ad agency."

His advice: "Focus on the roles and functions you intend to play in your organisation once you secure your MBA. Don't make salaries your sole focus. That is when you will truly achieve success."

Indian School Of Business
ISB Campus
Hyderabad -- 500 032

Phone: (040) 23187474

Fax: (040) 23007099


Web site: The Indian School of Business

Are you stuyding at ISB? Are you a former student? Share your feedback about your course and about ISB with Get Ahead readers.

Raj Lalwani

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